Nobody likes to be pulled over or stopped by the police. It’s not that we don’t expect it never to happen. It’s just meant to be rare. In Little Rock and all across Arkansas, the rule of law dictates that police can’t use their authority arbitrarily to target particular individuals or groups.

There may be times when police action is justifiable, but the ideal of not infringing on individual liberty is so important in our social structure that police action is constitutionally restricted. Some violations of the rules can be spotted easily. Others may be more subtle. If an illegal police confrontation results in a person facing criminal charges, the need for mounting a strong defense is clear.

How do you know a stop is illegal? Well, the book is constantly being written on that question. Some cases can draw on rules that have been laid down already by the courts. Others may serve as a basis for changing or refining the standards. In any case, experienced legal help should be sought.

With one’s personal freedom or life possibly at stake, it might be helpful to examine how the U.S. Supreme Court has sometimes addressed the issue.

That police conduct checkpoints should come as no surprise to anyone. Nearly every holiday, authorities set up roadblocks in an effort to get drunk drivers off the road. Sobriety checkpoints are considered valid because of the potential of reducing the hazard to the general population posed by drunk drivers. However, in 2000, the court said using roadblocks without a basis of “individualized suspicion of wrongdoing” and which subsequently lead to say, a drug arrest, is illegal.

In that same year, the high court also ruled unanimously that police can’t stop and frisk a person on the street solely based on someone’s anonymous tip that someone has a gun. If police don’t have reason to suspect illegal activity, no stop and frisk can be conducted.

Other decisions by the court reflect that the specific circumstances of a given case can influence how judges ultimately rule. This, again, simply reinforces the importance of having skilled representation in criminal cases.

 

Source: PBS.org, “Quiz: Spot the Illegal Police Stop,” Jason M. Breslow and Dan Nolan, June 28, 2016